Jewish Heritage Tour of Puglia and Matera (10 days/9 nights. Platinum option)
We also offer day trips, please enquire at email@example.com
Our tour is designed to satisfy the most discerning travelers who want to explore the highlights of Southern Italy with its fascinating cultural heritage, excellent food and wine and stunning, picturesque landscapes, distinctive and delightful, with crystalline seas, pretty countryside and endless sunshine. Puglia has a treasure of Jewish history and is the right place to spend your vacation.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN PUGLIA
Welcome to Apulia! We’ll meet you from Bari or Brindisi airport or train station and then take you for a delicious home-style lunch based on our regional specialties. After lunch we’ll head to your accommodation in Ostuni, the picturesque, hilltop, medieval 'white city' overlooking the Adriatic Sea. You'll spend the first three nights at either the 5* boutique hotel, “La Sommita Relais”, with its Michelin star restaurant, set in a 16th century former monastery in the heart of Ostuni. Alternatively, if you prefer to relax in the countryside, you can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of a former agricultural estate, the “Masseria Torre Coccaro”, now transformed into a luxury golf and spa resort. Dinner at Osteria del Tempo Perso in Ostuni.
DAY 2: DISCOVERING CISTERNINO, ALBEROBELLO & POLIGNANO A MARE
This morning our first stop is Cisternino, where we’ll stroll through the narrow streets of this medieval village, Then we'll drive to Alberobello, the famous Unesco World Heritage Site, famed for its conical-shaped dwellings, built from limestone with rooves stacked of stone tiles without mortar. Lunch at a family-run restaurant “ La cantina” where the chef Francesco will cook a delicious meal in front of you in his open kitchen. In the afternoon we set off for Polignano a Mare, renowned for its breathtaking balconies with views to the crashing waves of the Adriatic below. Also the birthplace of the Italian singer, Domenico Modugno famous for 'Volare'.
DAY 3: ORIA AND MANDURIA
Pick up from your accommodation at 09:30 am. Drive to Manduria (one hour approx.) and visit the synagogue in what remains of the Jewish ghetto of Manduria. Lunch in Manduria at Trattoria dei Mercanti. In the afternoon we will drive to Oria and enjoy a walk through the “Door of the Jews” (Porta degli Ebrei) which leads to the Jewish district which developed between the ninth and eleventh centuries. The main square is named after Shabbethai Abraham Donnolo, a medieval doctor and scientist who lived in Oria; one of Tel Aviv's hospitals is named after him. We will then proceed to Brindisi (45 minutes) and visit the Provincial Archaeological Museum where we will appreciate some amazing Jewish poetry on medieval tombstones.
DAY 4: GALLIPOLI, NARDO AND SANTA MARIA AL BAGNO
From Ostuni we’ll drive south, past Lecce, crossing the heel of Italy to Gallipoli, a charming fishing village on the Ionic Gulf. After a stroll through the fish market we will visit an underground oil mill before enjoying a nice lunch at “Puritate” one of the best fish restaurants on the Salento peninsula. In the afternoon we’ll head to a fantastic local winery “Schola Sarmenti”, in Nardò, where you’ll visit its cantina and taste their award winning, organic wines. We will then drive 10 minutes to Santa Maria al Bagno and visit the “Museo della Memoria e della Accoglienza” with info on this center where one thoundand German and Polish Jewish refugees lived from 1943 to 1947 waiting to go to Israel or the US.
Dinner in Lecce at “Le Zie” (aunties) celebrities' favourite restaurant.
As we walk to and from the restaurant we will experience Lecce beautifully lit at night, the Palazzos and the stunning facade of the highly decorated Santa Croce. You will enjoy three nights in the 5* luxury resort Hotel Risorgimento, situated in the heart of this beautiful Baroque city; this elegant resort has been an inn since the 15th century. The gourmet restaurant's executive chef, Cosimo Simmini, uses excellent local produce and the traditional flavours and aromas of the Salento cuisine. The Wellness Spa, Salus per Aquam, offers an array of relaxing and beauty treatments and you may enjoy a Hammam Roman bath.
DAY 5: HISTORICAL LECCE AND THE MARVELS OF JEWISH OTRANTO
After breakfast we will explore the city of Lecce, much of the architecture is in the highly decorative late Baroque style , which flourished in the 17th century and earned the city the name “ Florence of South”.
We will start with a visit to the “Jewish Museum ” and its medieval Mikveh. Next to Piazza Saint Oronzo and the magnificent Roman Amphitheatre. We will have our lunch at “Il Cantico dei Cantici” in the stunning seaside town of Otranto, one of Puglia's most vibrant towns, overlooking a pretty harbour, famous for the amazing Cathedral that features the largest and most beautiful floor mosaic in Europe.
Between the 9th and 12th centuries, Otranto was one of the main centers of Jewish learning in Apulia. As the Jewish community prospered thanks to commerce and entrepreneurial ventures, scholars gave lasting contributions to the study of the Bible, the Mishnah and the Talmud of Babylon.
When Benjamin of Tudela visited Otranto in 1159, he found about 500 Jews there. It was considered one of the most important rabbinical centers in Europe. In the Sefer ha-Yashar, Jacob Tam (12th century) quotes an old saying paraphrasing Isaiah 2:3: “For out of Bari shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Otranto.
DAY 6 : THE BASILICA OF GALATINA AND BEAUTIFUL TRICASE
in the morning we will drive to Galatina and visit the Basilica Santa Caterina d'Alessandria with its amazing frescoes and paintings similar to those at the Basilica San Francesco in Assisi. It is thought that some of the artists that worked with Giotto were also employed to work here. We will then drive down to Leuca where we will have lunch at “Osteria Del Pardo” famous for its fish and seafood dishes. In the afternoon we will visit the centuries old organic winery “Castel di Salve” owned by the Winspeare family, that brings together wines produced from four of their vineyards which, are geographically very close but fall into four very distinct microclimates and soil environments. You'll have a chance to taste them all! We will then visit the old town of Tricase and enjoy an aperitif at “Farmacia Bilboa”. You are then free to enjoy the evening in Tricase before we drive back to Lecce.
DAY 7: THE SASSI OF MATERA
Today we leave Lecce; we’ll start the tour with a visit to Grottaglie, famed for its ceramics, where we will visit some workshops. We then continue our journey to Matera, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where we will have a delicious lunch at “Falco Grillaio” then begin to explore the fascinating Sassi (stone cave district). The people of Matera once lived in these Sassi, dwellings scooped out of the rock. Many chapels were also gouged out of the rock and we will be visiting some of these chapels and dwellings on route. We will spend two nights in the spectacular hotel, “Sextantio Grotte della Civita” a cultural project of preservation and renovation located in the oldest part of the sassi and overlooking the Gravina (ravine) stream and the dramatic scenery of the Murgia Park. We will dine at Abbondanza, a chic restaurant in a cave.
DAY 8: MORE OF MATERA
After breakfast, we will visit the “Crypt of the Original Sin” commonly known as the Sistine Chapel of Rupestrian art; it was discovered as late as 1963. Experts have dated the cycle of paintings back to the second half of the eighth century, painted by Basilian monks. After a wonderful lunch at “Baccanti” you may choose between a bike tour to a natural preservation area just outside Matera or an easy walk in the old town to look at workshops of local artisans or perhaps relax at a local cafe and pastry shop.
DAY 9: TRANI AND CASTEL DEL MONTE
Today we travel to “Castel del Monte” built in the 13th century by the Norman emperor Fredrick the second to be used as a hunting lodge. This is one of the most sophisticated secular buildings of the middle ages and its octagonal geometry has inspired many novels and mistery tales. Masterwork of medieval architecture, fusing cultural elements from Northern Europe, the Middle East and the classical Hellenic world, the castle is formed by geometrical shapes rich in symbolic meaning. The fortification’s layout consists of an octagonal base with an octagonal tower at each corner and contains eight trapezoidal rooms within. It is said that there was also once an octagonal basin in the courtyard, representing the Holy Grail. Lunch at “Antichi Sapori” in Andria or “Corte in Fiore” in Trani, both excellent awarded restaurants. In the afternoon we will visit Trani and its amazing cathedral built by the sea. During the middle ages the town was an active port and bustled with mercantile activity with merchants and Knight Templars that travelled throughout the Mediterranean and the Holy Land. We will also visit the only working synagogues in Puglia, “Schola Nova”, built in the 13th century, at the time of the greatest prosperity of the Jewish community in Trani, which in 1160 had a population of 200 families. Here lived Isaiah of Trani the Elder (1232-1279), a high Talmudic authority. David, his son, and Isaiah of Trani the Younger, his nephew, followed in his footsteps, as did their descendants until the end of the seventeenth century. We will also visit the church of Sant'Anna, the former “Schola Grande” synagogue built in 1246 and recently tranformed into a museum. We will spend the last night at “Corte in Fiore” in Trani and have dinner at “Le Lampare”.
DAY 10: GOODBYE
After breakfast and a little walk through the marina and fish market, we’ll escort you to Brindisi or Bari airport for your return journey. We hope you will return to visit us and keep exploring more of our colourful land. “Goodbye!”
more info on Jewish Puglia on
Jewish Heritage Tour of Sicily
10 days 9 nights with Green Italy Tours
Day 1 - Sep 16th: welcome to Palermo.
We will pick up you at the Palermo International airport and drive to Grand hotel Villa Igiea where you will spend the first three nights.
The capital of Sicily has been a crossroads for cultures and civilizations for the past 4 thousand years, Arabic, Jewish and Norman/Christian architecture is overwhelming… On the first day we will walk along Villa Bonanno to the Cathedral in Corso Vittorio Emanuele and continue along Vittorio Emanuele to the imposing Four Corners. Admire the Tuscan fountain in Piazza Pretoria and, just behind it, take in two splendid Arabic-Norman churches, many of which were originally Mosques or Synagogues. After visiting La Martorana and San Cataldo, we will drive to the Vucciria the Casbah style market that reminds us of Palermo’s Arabic past; after a short walk we will enjoy an amazing lunch at “Maestro del Brodo”. In the afternoon we will unwind in the chic pedestrian area of Via Principe di Belmonte. The tour ends in the splendid Norman royal palace of the Zisa, built in Norman Arab style, that still keeps a Hebrew inscription and a Jewish candle-holder. Dinner at Ristorante Sant’Andrea.
Day 2 – Sep 17th: Visit Palermo & Monreale
Today we will spend the morning gaping at the impressive mosaics in the Duomo of Monreale, which lies 15km (12 miles) south of Palermo. Make your way next door to visit the annexed Cloisters, where no two-column capitals are alike. Back to Palermo to visit the picturesque medieval quarter of La Kalsa and a Jewish memorial tombstone. We will end the day at the famous Piazza Marina where the imposing building of Palazzo Steri , once the seat of the Holy Inquisition, is still standing.
Enjoy a cocktail at our hotel and dinner at Bellotero http://www.bellotero.it/ in the fascinating old town.
Day 3 – Sep 18th: Visit Cefalu
Today we will visit Cefalù, Just one hour's drive of Palermo, we will discover the beauty of Cefalu’ with its winding Mediaeval streets flanked with all manner of shops, excellent restaurants serving the freshest of fish and last but probably first, its unique Norman cathedral.
After lunch we will drive back to Palermo where we will visit The Norman Palace, built by the Arabs in the year 900 AD and later enlarged by the Normans ( mosaics of the Palatine chapel). Dinner at “Trattoria ai Cascinari” or ….
Day 4 – Sep 19th: Travel from Palermo to Noto and we will stop at the “Valley of Temples” in Agrigento
Prepare to spend the day exploring two of the most impressive and powerful cities of Magna Graecia. When Pindar praisedAgrigentoas "the most beautiful of the mortal cities," he was not overstating his case. The splendidValley of the Temples, a Unesco World Heritage site, preserves the vestiges of what was once a main player in the Mediterranean and surpasses Greece's Athens itself for the quantity and quality of ruins. The near-intactTemple of Concordis the best-preserved temple in the world and one of the symbols of Sicily. after lunch travel to NOTO, where we will spend 2 nights at hotel Villa Dorata.
Day 5th – Sep 20th: Visit Noto and surroundings
Noto and Ragusa are wonderful jewels of Sicilian baroque architecture, rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693. Giuseppe Lanza, Duke of Camastra, employed the best architects of the day. The result, initiated just a week after the earthquake struck, is a late Baroque fantasy played out in fragile, honey-coloured stone.
Burnished a dusty gold in the fading light and flanked by huge palm trees, this initial introduction to Noto is a surprise, more north African than Mediterranean and yet somehow so Sicilian, enigmatic and unruly.
Noto's cathedral rises impressively above Corso Vittorio Emmanuele and is approached by a wide and graceful flight of steps. The dome collapsed in 1996, but is now back in place, and the whole building has been restored after years of grime and neglect.
Noto, a Unesco World Heritage site, is easy to visit. Simply wander the length of the Corso, as long and graceful as an arrow, diving down side streets here and there, and not missing Via Nicolaci, at the top of which is the beautiful elliptical façade of the Chiesa di Montevirgine. Along one side of Via Nicolaci stands the Palazzo Villadorata, with many playfully buttressed balconies and sculptures of horses, griffons, nymphs and cherubs; its poignant Empire-style interior, with frescoed walls and ceilings, has been miraculously preserved.
At the bottom of the street stands the church of San Carlo, whose bell tower offers fine views. Opposite the cathedral, the town hall has an exuberant trompe l'oeil ceiling in its "Hall of Mirrors". After such a memorable walk, we will leave time for gelato at Caffè Sicilia, opened in 1892, fourth-generation owner Corrado Assenza creates radical cakes such as saffron with sour orange rind and ices flavoured with black olive or basil.
Dinner at “Le Ularie” Located in Noto’s historical district, Le Ularie restaurant specializes in fresh, simply prepared seafood. The dining room is designed in a minimalist style while the outdoor patio provides additional seating against a backdrop of Sicilian Baroque buildings. Menu options include the signature seafood sampler, which comes with smoked tuna, marinated swordfish, fried mullet, and octopus salad, followed by entrées like spaghetti with fresh lemon and bottarga (dried mullet roe).
Day 6 Visit Ragusa Sept 21st
Visit Ragusa, a prestigious winery and lunch at Duomo. This well-known restaurant, ranked two stars by Michelin, is tucked along a winding street in the old section of Ragusa, known as Ragusa Ibla. Small and formal, there is framed artwork along the walls and silk-covered tables set against long, champagne-colored drapes. The menu is chef-owner Ciccio Sultano's stylized take on Sicilian dishes, like pasta with sardines and pork sauce, caviar with ricotta and strawberry honey, or truffle gelato sandwiched between crostini. In the afternoon back to Noto.
Day 7– Sept 22nd: Travel to Siracusa
Day 6, we will travel from Noto to the small town of Agira where we will visit the Synagogue site and the magnificent stone portal of the Aron Kodesh made of the local stone stored in the local church. The Aron belongs to the local ex-synagogue that existed before the expulsion of the Jews from Sicily in 1510. The portal, unique example of Jewish architecture, will give us an insight into the life of a small Jewish community in the heart of mediaeval Sicily.
In Siracusa where we will spend 2 nights, we will enjoy the magical atmosphere of the old city, with sea all around it, concentrated in few streets and squares, with walls, forts and Greek temples mixed with the recent buildings, and the delightful street market. The large Greek theater, the “ear of Dyonisos”, an ancient quarry-prison, the fine archeological Museum, are the best stops for the history lovers.
We have 2 option in Siracusa for accomodation:
1)Ortiga Algilà - https://www.algila.it/index/
2) Donna Coraly http://donnacoraly.it/le-suite/
Day 8 – Sep 23th: Travel to Taormina
After breakfast we will visit the Miqwè- Jewish ritual bath, the most archaic that has ever been found in all Europe, and then travel to Taormina(1 hours 30 min). After checking in at our charming hotel with amazing sea views, we will explore Taormina’s town center. with its little charming streets which have attracted visitors for centuries.
Option for accomodations:
- Belmond Villa sant'Andrea
- Hotel el Jebel
- Belmond grand hotel el Timeo
- Hotel Ash bee
Day 9 – Sep 24th: Relax in Taormina
Enjoy Taormina’s town center, with its little charming streets which have attracted visitors for centuries, and take a fresh gelato while sitting by the main street, Corso Umberto I, walk along venerable palazzi or shop for shoes, fashion, jewels, picture and memorabilia of any kind.
Day 10 – Sep 25th: Greek Amphitheatre and departure
After breakfast we will visit the Greek theatre of Taormina and then we will drive you to Catania international airport for your return flight.
Day 11 optional extension Mount Etna
drive up to the slopes of Mt. Etna. Weather and volcanic conditions permitting, we will experience the lava fields and incredible views of Europe's highest and most active volcano. On our way down we will stop in one of the winery farmhouse located on the lower slope of the Volcano for a wine tasting and a light meal based on local products.
Day 12 optinal extension – Sept 26th: Catania
After lunch we will drive to the city of Catania for a short guided visit that include the famous Duomo dedicated to Saint Agata and the Orsino Castle.